Sebastian Moore made this astonishing confession: “It has taken me thirty years to understand that the admission and forgiveness of sin is the essence of the New Testament.” Paul Claudel once stated that the greatest sin is to lose the sense of sin. Humility, recovering alcoholics like to say, is stark raving honesty. We cannot receive what the crucified Rabbi has to give unless we admit our plight and stretch out our hands until our arms ache. If we search for one word to describe the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, ‘reconciliation’ would not be a bad choice. The Crucified says, “Confess your sin so that I may reveal Myself to you as lover, teacher, and friend, that fear may depart and your heart can stir once again with passion.” His word is addressed both to those filled with a sense of self-importance and to those crushed with a sense of self-worthlessness. Both are preoccupied with themselves. Both claim a godlike status, because their full attention is riveted either on their prominence or their insignificance. They are isolated and alienated in their self-absorption. The release from chronic egocentricity starts with letting Christ love them where they are. Brennan Manning, Chapter Nine
Union may be symbolized by two wax candles, the tips of which touch each other so closely that there is but one light; or again, the wick, the wax, and the light become one, but the one candle can again be separated from the other and the two candles remain distinct; or the wick may be withdrawn from the wax. But spiritual marriage is like rain falling from heaven into a river or stream, becoming one and the same liquid, so that the river and rain water cannot be divided; or it resembles a streamlet flowing into the ocean, which cannot afterwards be disunited from it. This marriage may also be likened to a room into which a bright light enters through two windows—though divided when it enters, the light becomes one and the same (The Interior Castle, 272)
Listen to Clement of Alexandra:
Jesus Christ, by coming into this world, has changed the sunsets of time into the sunrises of eternity (Crabb, 185).
It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do? The degree of hopelessness I have for others comes from never realizing that God has done anything for me. Is my own personal experience such a wonderful realization of God’s power and might that I can never have a sense of hopelessness for anyone else I see? Has any spiritual work been accomplished in me at all? The degree of panic activity in my life is equal to the degree of my lack of personal spiritual experience.
Put God’s Needs First.
Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God. Hebrews 10:9
A man’s obedience is to what he sees to be a need; Our Lord’s obedience was to the will of His Father. The cry to-day is — “We must get some work to do; the heathen are dying without God; we must go and tell them of Him.” We have to see first of all that God’s needs in us personally are being met. “Tarry ye until….” The purpose of this College is to get us rightly related to the needs of God. When God’s needs in us have been met, then He will open the way for us to realize His needs elsewhere.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. — Revelation 1:17
The Delight Of Despair
It may be that like the apostle John you know Jesus Christ intimately, when suddenly He appears with no familiar characteristic at all, and the only thing you can do is to fall at His feet as dead. There are times when God cannot reveal Himself in any other way than in His majesty, and it is the awfulness of the vision which brings you to the delight of despair; if you are ever to be raised up, it must be by the hand of God.
“He laid His right hand upon me.” In the midst of the awfulness, a touch comes, and you know it is the right hand of Jesus Christ. The right hand not of restraint nor of correction nor of chastisement, but the right hand of the Everlasting Father. Whenever His hand is laid upon you, it is ineffable peace and comfort, the sense that “underneath are the everlasting arms,” full of sustaining and comfort and strength. When once His touch comes, nothing at all can cast you into fear again. In the midst of all His ascended glory the Lord Jesus comes to speak to an insignificant disciple, and to say — “Fear not.” His tenderness is ineffably sweet. Do I know Him like that?
Watch some of the things that strike despair. There is despair in which there is no delight, no horizon, no hope of anything brighter; but the delight of despair comes when I know that “in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.” I delight to know that there is that in me which must fall prostrate before God when He manifests Himself, and if I am ever to be raised up it must be by the hand of God. God can do nothing for me until I get to the limit of the possible.
Grant my prayer, Lord, and do not allow my soul to wilt under the discipline which you prescribe. Let me not tire of thanking you for your mercy and rescuing me from all my wicked ways so that you may be sweeter to me than all the joys which used to tempt me; so that I may love you most intensely and clasp your hands with all the power of my devotion; so that you may save me from all temptation until the end of my days.
You, Lord, are my King and my God, and in your service I want to use whatever good I learned as a boy. I can speak and write, read and count, and I want these things to be used to serve you, because when I studied other subjects you check me and forgave me the sins I committed by taking pleasure in such worthless things. It is true that these studies taught me many useful words, but the same words can be learnt by studying something that matters, and this is the safe course for a boy to follow.
-Saint Augustine, Confessins (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1961).
…Secondly, you may say that you have neither the power nor the means to lead souls to God; though you would willingly do so, you do not know how, as you can neither teach nor preach as did the Apostles. I have often written an answer to this objection though I cannot tell whether I have done so in connection with the Castle. However, as the difficulty probably often crosses your minds on account of the desires our Lord gives you of serving Him, I will now speak of it again. I told you elsewhere how the devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so that instead of putting our hands to what work we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities.
You can do much by prayer; and then, do not try to help the whole world, but principally your companions; this work will be all the better because you are the more bound to it. Do you think it is a trifling matter that your humility and mortification, your readiness to serve your sisters, your fervent charity towards them, and your love of God, should be as a fire to enkindle their zeal, and that you should constantly incite them to practise the other virtues? This would be a great work and one most pleasing to our Lord: by thus doing all that is in your power, you would prove to His Majesty your willingness to do still more and He would reward you as if you had won Him many souls. Do you answer: ’This would not be converting my sisters, for they are very good already?’ What business is that of yours? If they were still better, the praise they render God would please Him more and their prayers would be more helpful to their neighbours.
-St. Teresa of Avila. The Interior Castle. Third Edition. London: Thomas Baker, 1921. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.